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CACM Reports: Solving Global Challenges with Social Computation

September Issue Reports on the Meaning of Science in Computer Science, the Pros and Cons of Internet Voting, the Tyranny of the Clock in Digital Designs, and Reflections on the Facebook IPO

acm
The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold
212-626-0505
vgold@acm.org

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NEW YORK – September 27, 2012 – As computational problem solving continues to intersect with economics and social science disciplines, Michael Kearns of the University of Pennsylvania surveys experiments that explore the ability of human subjects to solve challenging tasks in social networks. The experiments involved dozens of subjects in a laboratory of networked workstations, who are given financial incentives to resolve problems as diverse as graph coloring, networked trading, and biased voting. In the October cover story of Communications of the ACM (CACM), he reports that, despite the emphasis on collective problem-solving, it is individual human decision-making, strategies, and personalities that influence outcomes.

Also in this issue, ACM President Vint Cerf acknowledges the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of computer software. Citing the meaning of "science" in computer science, he makes the case that computer scientists need to develop better tools and deeper understanding of the systems they invent and a greater ability to make predictions about the behavior of these systems. Cerf identifies ACM membership as a mark of recognition of that responsibility, and encourages others in the profession to join the quest for the science in the discipline.

Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format.

Other Communications highlights:

  • Weighing the case for Internet voting, Barbara Simons and Douglas Jones present the pros and cons of this technology that some call inevitable. Simons, a retired IBM staff researcher, and Jones, of the University of Iowa, detail the serious threats that Internet voting poses to election integrity, as well as the advantages cited by advocates. They conclude that the balance between the integrity of election technology and convenience is both a public-policy and a technology issue.
  • ACM Turing Award recipient Ivan Sutherland assesses the tyranny of the clock that dominates today’s digital design paradigm, and advocates his clock-free paradigm as a means to create designs that save energy, increase speed, and offer freedom to optimize design parts. Despite technical, social and courage obstacles, he predicts the clock-free paradigm will prevail.
  • Facing rising electricity costs, leading companies have begun revolutionizing the way data centers work, observes technology writer Gregory Mones. He cites examples of firms that are replacing inefficient cooling equipment, using ambient air, managing circulation within buildings and within the hardware, and redesigning server hardware to improve energy efficiency.
  • Like any discipline, machine learning has a lot of "folk wisdom" than can be difficult to come by, but is crucial for success, writes Pedro Domingos of the University of Washington. He summarizes 12 key lessons that machine learning researchers and practitioners have learned to speed up applications that McKinsey Global Institute predicts will be the driver of the next big wave of innovation.
  • Michael Cusumano of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reflects on the Facebook initial public offering (IPO) and the factors that measure a company’s worth. He observes that there may be no science to IPO pricing and short term market value, but a quick look at the economics of the business can help investors determine if a company is a good long-term investment.
  • Getting hooked on computers is easy – almost anybody can make a program work, writes Poul-Henning Kamp, citing Eric Raymond’s essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," which touted the grass-roots open source software development movement. Kamp, whose summer reading included Frederick Brooks’ The Design of the Design, laments the dot-com era’s impact on the "beautiful cathedral of Unix," and its simplicity of design, economy of features, and elegance of execution.
  • Computer science has become an integral part of nearly all science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs, observes technology writer Leah Hoffman. She dissects the growing recognition – both in the U.S. and internationally – that the real crisis in computer science is no longer the steep decline in the number of CS undergraduates. It lies instead in the primary and secondary schools.
  • Blog @CACM blogger Daniel Reed offers three ideas about the future of personal online information management. Ed. H. Chi writes about replication of experiments and how they are often the beginning rather than the end of a scientific inquiry.

For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on cacm.acm.org

About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

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